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J Chem Neuroanat. 1998 Jun;14(3-4):175-80.

The role of motor proteins in establishing the microtubule arrays of axons and dendrites.

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Department of Anatomy, The University of Wisconsin Medical School, Madison 53706, USA.


Neurons generate two distinct types of processes called axons and dendrites, both of which rely on highly organized arrays of microtubules for their growth and maintenance. Axonal microtubules are uniformly oriented with their plus-ends distal to the cell body, while dendritic microtubules are nonuniformly oriented. In neither case are the microtubules attached to the centrosome or any detectable structure that could establish their distinct patterns of polarity orientation. Here I describe several lines of evidence from my laboratory that support a model for the establishment of these microtubule arrays based on microtubule transport by motor proteins. Microtubules destined for axons and dendrites are nucleated at the centrosome within the cell body of the neuron, and rapidly released. The released microtubules are then transported into the developing processes. Early in neuronal development, the microtubules are transported with their plus-ends-leading into the developing axon and into the immature processes that will develop into dendrites. In the case of the developing dendrites, the plus-end-distal microtubules are later joined by a population of microtubules that are transported into these processes with their minus-ends-leading. Implicit in this model is that there are molecular motor proteins that transport microtubules with the appropriate orientation into each type of process. There is precedent for molecular motor proteins transporting microtubules during mitosis, and our results suggest that the same or similar motors are utilized during the development of axons and dendrites after a neuroblast becomes terminally postmitotic.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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